The Power of God in Me

In Ephesians 1:18-19, Paul prays that his readers “will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe in him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead.” Through the Spirit of God, the same power God employed to raise Jesus from death resides in me. What does that mean? It doesn’t feel like it some days, but God has declared it!

I have feelings of powerlessness, weariness and weakness, but those aren’t telling the eternal story. In the eternal story for our lives when we are weak, His strength becomes more evident in us. That power that caused Jesus to rise from the grave displays for us that God is the God who accomplishes what the human mind thinks is impossible.  My calculating, preserving, and planning does not accomplish the work of God, but His Spirit and power do what I could never hope or imagine to achieve.

This verse reveals my wrong thinking where I have been living according my feelings rather than truth. When I choose to believe God, I may not feel any stronger, but I do experience a marvelous peace by realizing my human weakness or messy life will not stop God’s plans.  I am so thankful the good news doesn’t depend on something I do but something I receive by faith – His Spirit demonstrating His power producing His works.

Our feelings may deceive us. Even if you cannot see or perceive it, choose faith today believing His power is at work in you to accomplish His good purposes.

Jesus, Our Healer

When I read the gospels, it is clear Jesus heals dramatically and immediately. Then I consider my experience and that of most people in the church today and wonder (not if Jesus is able to heal or does healing still occur today but) why do most instances of healing no longer occur immediately or dramatically? Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Even though miraculous healing still occurs, it is not as commonplace.

I admit when I think of healing, I have in mind those cases where one day someone had cancer and the next day they did not.  Or I think of someone being tormented by mental health struggles, and one prayer changed everything. As I ponder the entire spectrum of healing from instantaneous to delayed until we are in heaven, I confront the themes from which I cannot seem to escape – time, process and community.

First, I want to broaden the definition of what many would consider as miraculous. I think miraculous includes every occasion when the creator of the universe, our sovereign, omnipotent and eternal God chooses to become involved in the lives of men and women. Anytime healing occurs God IS involved whether we give him credit or not. Broken bones healed and broken sprits mended do not occur apart from God’s mercy in our lives.

What if God’s first priority for healing is not our broken physical bodies but to repair our trust in him? Foremost, God desires that our broken fellowship with our Heavenly Father be restored as we recognize only Jesus can save us.  Yet even our daily walks, our trust can be fractured as we stop depending on God and turn back to making things happen in our own strength or depend on our own resources to protect ourselves.

What if (unlike me) Jesus doesn’t not see it as better when we ask him in a single prayer for healing and it is done. What if He wants to use our weakness to display his strength?  What if He wants someone to be healed not only in fellowship with Him but in fellowship with other believers who observe perseverance in someone who lives by faith without apparent healing.  The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5 – Outward we are wasting away, but inwardly we are being renewed day by day. God’s glory in us becomes brighter not in absence of a deteriorating body but in spite of our physical brokenness.

Maybe I am still waiting because I still need a transformed heart, mind and spirit more than I need the healing I think I need. The good news is that Jesus does not require for us to be healed or whole to use us to minister to others. Lisa Harper wrote, “You can still limp and lead beautifully.”

As I walk around my neighborhood, I see the tree pictured in this blog. Two different storms have cracked off two large branches from the trunk, yet the flowers bloomed magnificently. You too may be broken, but our Lord sees your and even so, treasures the beauty he finds in you.

Seated with Christ in Heavenly Places

God raised us up with Christ and seated us in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6

This is one of those phrases that seems a bit confusing. God states that I am presently seated (not will be seated) in heavenly places in Christ. With my eyes I see one thing, but that is not the reality.  My physical body is here on the earth, yet somehow, I am also seated in heavenly places.

Many churches are good at explaining the way Jesus’s perfect life and sacrificial death paid the price to redeem us from sin, but when we delve into the epistles, we learn in Christ we have not only redemption but many others amazing provisions. But because of the great exchange, Jesus in place of me, I have attained a new position where I am seated with Jesus.

Being seated implies rest or completion. One doesn’t sit down while there is still work to accomplish. Jesus accomplished everything necessary for my salvation and eternal life, so I can rest in the work He has done. It is finished!

Being seated in heavenly realms causes me think of authority. Since we are seated with Christ, we have already been granted authority in Christ. This is not an authority to force our own way but His power to bring about His kingdom and showcase his glory by speaking life into a dying world and employing prayer to tear down enemy strongholds.

Being seated also makes me think of rest. It is hard to sit still when one is anxious. Since we are seated, we can view from a heavenly perspective those sovereign ways of God and not get tossed around by every circumstance in our days.

When we are seated with Jesus, his face is closer and clearer and the things in this world appear smaller and less significant in light of his presence and glory.

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Please Wait

I began reading the gospel of Mark, and I was struck by the number of times the author wrote IMMEDIATELY. In fact, the word euthys occurs 41 times in the book. Things were always happening at a very quick pace. Immediately, the Spirit impelled Jesus to go out into the wilderness.  Immediately, Simon and Andrew left their nets and followed Him. Immediately, the leprosy left a man and he was cleansed. Immediately another man picked up his pallet and went out. Throughout the gospel, someone immediately receives sight or is healed immediately.

Not so with my life. Nothing seems immediate. There is always waiting and more waiting and process. Healing and growth happen over time. Understanding and insight are not gained all at once. Even after I have prayed, the path is not immediately clear.

A few weeks later, I was reading Genesis and Exodus and there was not the same sense of immediacy. Abraham waited until age 100 before the child of God’s promise, Isaac, was born. Joseph was estranged from his family over 20 years. Moses shepherded 40 years in the wilderness before the Lord brought him into the role of deliverer. The people of Israel were slaves in Egypt for 400 years.  In these accounts, I recognize how God is more concerned about refining those he has chosen through crafting character over time.

In the fullness of time, God sent his own son, Jesus. For centuries the people longed for the coming Messiah, yet this event was pre-ordained before the creation of the world.

Why does immediate seem preferable? Why is waiting so difficult? Maybe the problem is that I have a temporal mindset and God is eternal not subservient to time as I understand it. Or perhaps it is because our society has idolized time-management and waiting seems to be doing nothing. Or perhaps longer waiting takes more faith and trust. For all the longing and waiting, we do have one guarantee of immediate.  In the twinkling of an eye…in an instant our earthly bodies will become immortal. When Jesus appears, we will become like him for we shall see Him as He is.  And for that, I eagerly wait.

They Gave Us Instruments

Here’s something you may not know about me: I feel a strong connection with persecuted Christians. Nearly 30 years ago I was introduced to the work of Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs and began giving and praying for these ministries who provided support and resources to believers in areas where faith costs the most. When I chose to be baptized at age 30, part of my testimony was that I had been thinking that if I was following Jesus, baptism as an adult did not seem necessary. However, after hearing a sermon seemingly directly from the mouth of God and receiving an issue of Frontline Faith, my heart was changed. I told those present that I realized baptism is an immense decision in countries where people are not permitted to openly practice their faith. Even though it was easy for me to confess my belief in Jesus, I was reminded that for some the decision could cost their family, their source of employment, their standing in the community, and even their life.

Two books I read early in my life as a believer were God’s Smuggler but Brother Andrew and Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand. The latter was especially difficult to read because of the horrific extent those who confessed Jesus were persecuted. Their unwavering devotion to Christ, still leaves me astonished. One place in Tortured for Christ Wurmbrand states, “They gave us instruments” which compelled the imprisoned believers to praise God and share the good news of Jesus.  He wasn’t alluding to a harp or a hymnal. He referred to each instance of abuse and torture that became a means where they chose to sing praise instead of becoming angry or despondent. In the midst of excruciating and unimaginable pain, these followers of Christ reaffirmed this commitment to Him by lifting voices in thanksgiving and proclaiming the gospel to all.

In even minor difficulties in my life, the tune escaping my mouth sounds more like a whine than a song. It takes a transforming work of God to see hardship as an instrument of God’s love. I am so not there, but I take heart in the witness of persecuted believers who teach me that rejoicing and thanksgiving are possible even in the face of suffering and persecution.

Who is Writing your Story?

Recently, I have become aware that I was reading a counterfeit version of my life story. When I would wake in the middle of the night or have a difficult time during the day, Satan kept voicing a narrative where nothing I do matters. In this account, nothing will ever change and no one really understands. In this sad story, because I am always lacking, so I have no hope of living a fulfilling or wonderful life.

Maybe it is set on auto-play or that story plays more loudly than my Heavenly Father’s quieter whispers. However, no matter how loudly or how many times it is played, this false narrative never becomes the epic story written by the author and perfector of our faith. In the true version I am chosen, loved and unconditionally accepted by God. How can I be helpless or my life be pointless when the same power that raised Jesus from the grave dwells in me? The light of the world shines through me. In God’s account, He works in ways I can’t perceive bearing fruit in the midst a seemingly mundane life. In His book, I am not defined by my failures but by Jesus’ perfection, so my identity is spotless blameless and free. Who I am becoming is more important than anything I do.

It has been established that Satan lies, steals, and kills. The English word devil comes from the Greek diabolos which means slanderer or “back-biter.” That was exactly what was happening when I was forgetful or caught off guard by his strategies. The devil was in the shadows falsely accusing God and slandering the new creation God made me. Since I was listening, I was unfortunately giving credence to these lies. The voice I believed impacted my daily experience. However, the reality has never changed. I was never who Satan claimed and my life will never match his plans for me, but I lost strength and confidence.

I’m getting a little better at recognizing those first lines from the tale of woe Satan weaves. Before I get sucked into the evil plot, I slam that book closed and refuse to read one more line. Which version of your life are you reading and re-reading?

The Right Answer

The scribe approached Jesus with a question, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” When Jesus asked how he would answer, the scribe replied, “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus told him, “You have answered correctly.” Having the right answer was not enough for this man who wanted to justify himself, so then he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?”

I think this man probably was very generous toward his fellow Israelites – to those who lived and thought like he did. He wanted Jesus to pat him on the back and wish him well as he sent him on his way. He wanted to gain confirmation for what he already believed so he could continue in self-righteousness. Instead of commendation, Jesus challenged his thinking and his heart.

Who is my neighbor? My answer reveals the extent to which God’s love has penetrated my heart. I imagine the scribe in this account would do his duty, but he was not motivated by the kind of love God has for us.  He wouldn’t go out of his way or use his money or time for someone he considered a distraction from his “real” purpose. Ironically, the Samaritan, whose actions aptly fit the description of neighbor would be considered inferior by those listening to the words of Jesus. Contrary to public opinion of the day, Jesus portrayed the Samaritan as the hero of the story because of his sacrificial love.

Do I want life as Jesus promises or do I want to be right? When researchers approach a topic to study, they consider something called confirmation bias which is seeing information through a certain lens that agrees with what the researcher already believes to be true. I can fall into this pattern as I listen to teachings, read books, or even study God’s word. As Jesus demonstrated to the scribe, abundant life is not characterized by how much I know but how much I love.

I found this quote by an unknown source, “ The difference between a wise man and a fool is not that the wise man is right and the fool is wrong but that the fool always assumes himself right and the wise man wonders if he would be wrong.”

Lord, instead of having the right answer, I desire humility, a teachable spirit and to be a conduit of your boundless love to whomever you bring into my life.

Following Jesus is not a Virtual Experience

I have a confession. I have become lazy in the last 12 months. In the early months of the pandemic, our church did not hold in person services, so if I wanted to connect with the body of Christ, I had to participate on-line. As the restrictions eased, I found it is so much easier to watch church on-line from the comfort of our living room. Then this morning, I joined the prayer time with both my audio and video off. I did not want to be seen or heard. While those things are fine on occasion, I realize following Jesus and being in fellowship with other believers is not a virtual experience. It is not watching a you tube video of a great sermon (and there are many) and getting on to the next thing in my day.

I worry I am in danger of becoming like the person in James who looks in a mirror and comes away unchanged – a hearer of the word and not a doer. When I hear and hoard, I am not really following Jesus. It is not how much I know or how much that message spoke to me but how the word of God transforms me to love God and others. As appealing as it is to remain in the shadows, I feel God’s prodding to be present and participating not merely observing and listening.

I have no doubt God hears me and is present with me as much when I am alone as when I am with others, but I find there are things that happen in community that don’t happen in my living room. I see others experiencing joys and hurts who are following Jesus through the mountains and valleys which strengthens my own resolve to persevere and to keep my focus on God. I may encounter someone (perhaps I have never spoken to them) to encourage or to simply look into their eyes to communicate that they are valued and matter very much to Jesus. Sometimes being with people is hard because their personalities or opinions rub me like sandpaper, but even in this God can refine me.

Admittedly, I will continue to watch services on-line at times and may not always speak or show my face during our prayer times, but I will also not choose comfort over being present. Following Jesus together strengthens me, challenges me, and shines light on my blind spots in ways that being alone with Jesus does not.

Gather Your Weapons

We are living in perilous times. It is not the time to stand on the sidelines but to prepare for battle. When faced with the option of holding your position or retreating, what will you choose? Perhaps the weapons you are considering are not the ones I have in mind.

My first recommendation for maintaining an offensive position is praise. In 2 Chronicles 20, we read of King Jehoshaphat who successfully employed this strategy beginning with prayer and continuing into battle. The singers preceded the warriors. As a result, the Lord made an end to their enemy. When the opposition of this world seems huge, re-read God’s words to his people.

Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. …. Stand firm, hold your position and you will see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf…go out against them and the Lord will be with you.

We also engage with simple acts of love toward others. Bringing light into another’s world, whether it is a megawatt stadium bulb or a little night light, casts away the darkness. Don’t minimize the impact of small kind deeds to advance God’s purposes. Additionally, these acts may keep us from falling prey to self-focus and defeat. 

Moreover, I advise you to employ the sword of the spirit – the word of God. Jesus used this as the devil assaulted him again and again in the wilderness. The devil convincingly twists the words of God, but when we know God’s word and character, we have the ability to fight these attacks and prevail. Our enemy uses a kernel of truth but weaves it with a destructive lie. For example, he may say, “Gods promises are true, but that one is for someone else and not you.”

Finally, we have a large arsenal of the fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. God’s methods are dissimilar to the ways of the world since it hardly seems like these qualities will change the world, but they can and do. If we belong to Christ, we are not of this world.  If each of us who calls upon the name of the Lord abides in Him and allows him to produce His fruit in our lives, we may not see the systems of this world topple, (until Jesus returns!!!) but again and again we will see God change hearts and rescue his lost sheep from the jaws of the enemy. We won’t live cowering in fear but overcoming through His strength.

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Thank You, Jesus!

…So that you may believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name.

There is a book called A Long Obedience in the Same Direction which pretty much describes my life. Following Jesus minute by minute, day by day, week by week, year by year. It is more than obedience though; I have a deep longing to grow closer and more in love with Jesus until the time I see him face to face.

There was a restless and an emptiness in me even though I believed in God, I didn’t understand how to draw near to Him. I thought it was by being good enough. When I was invited to a Bible study my senior year of high school, I first understood and believed Jesus paid for my sins on the cross to make the way for me to come to God.  Looking back, I would say I understood the gift of salvation through faith and although Jesus was a significant part of my life, He was not life itself. About 10 years following that original decision, I remember a transition when I wanted every thought, word and action to be His.

I found a love for God’s word and began studying in depth. These truths have been my anchor. My first major struggle was in my marriage. My husband was raised Catholic and our ideas of what it looked like to be a Christian were very different. We attended separate churches and I considered him married to the army. In addition to working endlessly, he was often away on training and deployments so about 5 years of our first 15 years  of  marriage, we spent apart. Parenting 3 young children without my husband would have been impossible without the Lord. When Mike left for Korea for a year, I was not sorry to see him leave as we had grown so far apart. During this year I saw the Lord’s goodness as He provided a ladies Bible study, someone to take the kids for playdates and sleepovers and a prayer partner. I believe though these prayers, Mike was greatly changed by his year in Korea. When he returned, our family moved to Hawaii and began attending church together. 

Over the years, the many moves have been difficult for me – to find a dear group of friends, a Bible study and a place to serve only to have to separate from them after a few years. I felt like a tree that kept getting uprooted just as the roots were beginning to go deep. Between the moves and having 2 more children after a 10-year gap, I  began a downward spiral into depression. While this has improved from where it was is 2010, it is a continual struggle not to give in to discouragement and continue to engage when my flesh wants to isolate and withdraw.  I feel drained of energy and some days just showing up for life is challenging.

Since I feel more confident expressing my thoughts in writing rather than speaking, God prompted me to share my struggles online through a blog.

One verse I return to over and over …He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. The reason this verse means so much to me is because when I look at my life it seems messy and incomplete. No dramatic victorious moments just day after day persevering through the mundane and continually drawing near to God who pursued me and has never let me go. He preserved my marriage and provides daily grace and patience for me as I parent a child with Down Syndrome who has so many needs. God keeps holding me and loving me and I have no idea of all the ways He prevented me from evil or harm. No circumstances in my life, or yours, cannot prevent God from accomplishing the good work He intends in us and through us.  When life is hard and the things God is doing are not visible to me, I can trust He is working and His ways are good and perfect.  He is my strength and I do not know how anyone can go through trials without knowing they are held in the precious arms of a loving father who one day will redeem all our suffering into glory.

If you confess with you mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9